Sochi Olympics downhill course gets high marks
Didier Cuche called it ”magnificent.” Bode Miller was highly
critical. Aksel Lund Svindal said upon first glance that the course
for the 2014 Sochi Olympics was ”what downhill is all about.”
So while there were some mixed feelings, racers mainly gave high
marks to the Rosa Khutor slope after the opening World Cup training
session was held under clear sunshine and on good, hard snow
”It’s a magnificent course,” said Cuche, the four-time winner
of the World Cup downhill title, who finished second to Austria’s
Hannes Reichelt on Wednesday. ”Perhaps a little bit too turning,
it could be adapted a little bit to change that. The first 40
seconds or so it resembles more a super-G than a downhill, albeit a
very fast super-G.
”It’s not like any other run on the circuit,” added Cuche, who
has announced he will retire after this season. ”It’s a really
interesting run. They have managed to shape the course around the
mountain in a really nice way.”
For Miller, however, the constant turns on the upper section are
too much like super-G.
”I don’t really believe it embodies anything that a true World
Cup downhill should be,” said the 34-year-old American, who will
be competing in his fifth Olympics if he continues through to
Two more training sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Friday
before a World Cup downhill on Saturday and a super-combined race
on Sunday – the first major test events for the Sochi Games.
At 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles), the course is one of the longer
layouts that skiers have faced, although the constant turns mean
little time in the tuck position and therefore it’s not one of the
most physically demanding tests.
”If they ran that as the Olympic super-G it would be an epic
super-G, because it’s not that tiring, even for the amount of time
that you’re on the course,” said Miller, who cruised down in 32nd
place. ”It’s just cranking turns the whole way on that good, hard
Miller lamented the lack of gliding sections, where he usually
”There’s not one place where you’re not going hard edge-to-edge
except for this road just before this second-to-last jump into the
finish,” he said. ”Because you’re so tall and you’re legs are
long, you’re not tucking at all.”
The upper half of the course contains a series of technical,
narrow and steep turns before easing out toward the end, although
there are large jumps all the way down, including one into the
”It’s a tough course,” said Svindal, the two-time overall
World Cup winner from Norway. ”I think a lot of guys were
surprised at inspection this morning.
”It’s kind of what downhill is all about – the mountain kind of
sets the pace,” Svindal added. ”If this was gliding from the top
then we would kill ourselves after 20 seconds, so I’m glad they put
some turns in there.”
However, Svindal thought organizers injected too much water to
make the upper portion of the course harder.
”It’s a tough course – that’s the bottom line – but the course
preparation really makes a (difference),” said the Norwegian, who
placed 21st. ”I think they overdid it with the water this time.
They’ll probably use less water for the Olympics.”
Svindal’s biggest complaint, though, was about the poorly
organized charter planes that the International Ski Federation
(FIS) used to transport athletes to Russia. He and other skiers
said they were given no food or water for a total of six hours from
the time they began their trip from Zurich on Tuesday.
”If we knew, we would have brought something, but information
was limited,” Svindal said.
The U.S. Ski Team avoided the charter route and flew over from
Europe by private jet, part of a training arrangement with the
Russian ski federation.
”It was cool to be able to fly here in style,” said giant
slalom world champion Ted Ligety.
Construction is everywhere, all the way up to the ski course
finish area, which is located halfway up the mountain and requires
two gondolas and a windy chairlift for fans and media to get
The skiers and the FIS seem pleased so far, though.
”This is the training of the test event, so this is Round 1,
Day 1 – we’re as green as green gets,” said men’s World Cup finish
area director Mike Kertesz. ”I don’t mean to pat our own backs but
with all the work we’ve done so far things are running according to
the way they should, or even better than I’ve seen a brand new
organizer do before.”
For Christof Innerhofer of Italy, who placed fifth, the course
”I like the ice, so I feel at home here,” said Innerhofer, who
won gold, silver and bronze medals at last season’s world
championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
”It’s a good downhill for the Olympic Games,” Innerhofer
added. ”At the Olympic Games we say the best must win and here
will win the best, not just one guy who is only fast on the
With the slopes closed to the public and high security, there is
little to distract the skiers.
”I have not seen a lot of Russian girls,” Innerhofer said.
”So that was a little bit sad, but (besides that) all the
organization was OK.”